The food and drink industry and government launched a shared vision for 20% growth in the food and drink manufacturing sector by 2020.
This ambitious vision builds upon existing projects that have focused upon unlocking the industry’s potential by securing new export markets. Attention has also been centred upon ensuring that the food and drink industry can attract and retain the skills and talent it needs, particularly in critical areas such as food scientists and engineers.
Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Caroline Spelman, said: “There are going to be huge opportunities for Britain’s food industry to supply an increasingly hungry world in coming years and sell high quality products to emerging markets. 2020 is a welcome project that will fully complement all the ambitious work we’re doing.”
Her views were echoed by Business Minister Mark Prisk, who said that “there is huge potential for growth in the food and drink sector.” Mr Prisk welcomed the industries ambition to secure 20% growth by 2020, this move will ensure that “food and drink manufacturing in Britain has a bright future,” he added.
The FDF director general Melanie Leech detailed how research by the trade organisation in partnership with Grant Thornton has helped to identify the major opportunities and barriers to growth.
Ms Leech said that FDF hope to meet with the government to develop a plan “to work towards our shared vision and maximise our sector’s potential to contribute to the UK economy” in the New Year.
The report, entitled “Sustainable Growth in the Food and Drink Manufacturing Industry”, encouraged the further use of robotics and automation in the industry in order to increase efficiency and capacity.
FDF put the slow uptake of robotics and automation as being down to finance, a point supported by a recent report by Harvey Nash that said how the majority of businesses are experiencing difficulty obtaining credit to fund growth. Angela Coleshill, FDF’s director for competitiveness said: “Poor access to finance, businesses need to gain better access to both bank and non-bank finance to help them invest in innovation.”
Kevin Staines, sales director at the solutions provider for automation and robotic systems CKF Systems, told The Manufacturer that further investment in automation and robotics can help the food and drink industry to achieve these growth targets.
“Compared with a decade ago, the UK food industry has taken a big step forward in its willingness to embrace new technologies that have helped to transform virtually all aspects of production,” said Mr Staines.
“With increasing pressure at home and overseas, coupled with ever-shifting patterns in consumer tastes, businesses know that investment now will realise greater levels of flexibility, quality and profitability.”